Some Tips to Help Your Service Sell

score Question:
For the past three years I've run a word-processing and data entry business. I get most of my work by word of mouth. I've done some advertising and sent out letters but got little response. I'm thinking that selling a product would be easier than selling a service. What do you think about distributing personalized children's books?

Nobody ever said starting a new business was going to be easy and that it would develop into an instant success. It generally takes long difficult days, weeks, months, and years to get it running smoothly at the volume needed to make it viable and profitable.

Starting a business is always exciting. However, after a few years, after you get caught up in the struggles of your company, it's easy to fall into "the grass is always greener" syndrome. Having covered all the pitfalls, hurdles, and limitations of your operation, something new always seems much more promising. But keep in mind that you'll soon discover the new operation's unique pitfalls, hurdles, and limitations.

Before you start a new line, consider these alternatives for building your company:

  • Advertise more broadly in the Yellow Pages under secretarial services, typing, resumes, and word processing.
  • Contact other word-processing services and offer to handle their overload.
  • Network in business and professional organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, service clubs, trade associations, marketing groups and women's clubs.
  • respond to help-wanted ads for secretaries to induce the companies to contract the work out to your company, rather than hire new personnel.
  • Focus your marketing efforts within a 20 minute drive of your office. Advertise in university newsletters and church, club and other business bulletins.
  • Place fliers with tear-off numbers on bulletins boards at colleges, universities and facilities used by students, such as laundromats.
  • Send direct mail postcards with lists of your services to new businesses in your area. Check city business journals for the names and addresses of potential businesses, and local newspapers for business start-ups. Then follow up your mailings with phone calls.
  • Offer discounts on work to customers who refer new clients.
  • Cultivate relationships with merchants that can recommend customers, such as office supply stores, copy houses and printers.
  • Approach hotels about offering your services to their business guests; be prepared to leave lots of line cards.

If you are truly ready for a change and would feel better about selling a product, continue your search. Few people ever earn back their investment when selling customized children's books.

Look for a product you could market that relates to one of your interests or passions. If you're into gourmet foods, for example, you might latch onto a new trend in food as several people have done with hot sauces. This way, you could tap into something truly special with a growing demand and increase your prospects for success.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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